The Privacy Case for Body Cameras: The Need for a Privacy-Centric Approach to Body Camera Policymaking
Columbia Journal of Law & Social Problems, Vol. 50, 2017
Posted: 29 Apr 2016 Last revised: 26 Mar 2019
Date Written: January 30, 2017
Body-mounted cameras are being used by law enforcement with increasing frequency throughout the United States, with calls from government leaders and advocacy groups to further increase their integration with routine police practices. As the technology becomes more common in availability and use, however, concerns grow as to how more-frequent and more-personal video recording affects privacy interests, as well as how policies can both protect privacy and fulfill the promise of increased official oversight.
This Note advocates for a privacy-centric approach to body camera policymaking, positing that such a framework will best serve the public’s multifaceted privacy interests without compromising the ability of body cameras to monitor law-enforcement misconduct. Part I surveys the existing technology and commonplace views of privacy and accountability. Part II examines the unique privacy risks imposed by the technology as well as the countervailing potential for privacy enhancement, demonstrating the value of an approach oriented around privacy interests. Part III assesses how the failure to adopt this approach has resulted in storage policies for body camera footage that inhibit the technology’s ability to best serve the public and suggests that a privacy-centric perspective can lead to better policymaking. Finally, Part IV examines the flaws of prevailing views with respect to policies for accessing footage and discusses how a revised privacy-centric perspective could lead to better policies.
Keywords: body cameras, privacy, access, disclosure, retention, footage, policy
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